Hungry for More Challenge and Chance in Social Games

This weekend over at Frisky Mongoose, I rambled off a lengthy list of reasons why people play social games, and I think its fair to say that Facebook game developers are doing a lot of things right.

Now can they change their click-only interfaces to feed players who are hungry for more?

People will click as many times as they need to make what they want out of a social game. But after all the shopping and buying of virtual items, sending gifts and helping neighbors, harvesting crops, feeding animals, cleaning and decorating…

How about a little fun?

It seems like the only real gameplay elements lacking in social games are challenge and chance. Beyond mystery boxes, most game elements are pretty darn cut and dry.

Oh they dabble – a little trivia and the occasional mini-game – but let’s get real. What’s engaging about clicking a mouse to do *everything* in a game? (Including those lucky-guess style minigames.) Players are getting hungry.

What about word challenges, crossword puzzles, soduku, chess – something with true challenge? (PetVille’s Bubble Pop is a step in the right direction.) Surely traditional casual games could be somehow incorporated into our humble Facebook game abodes, and it would be glorious.

Tower defense (here’s looking at you Plants vs. Zombies), match-3, hidden object, jumble, memory, puzzles, mazes, fastest-finger, trivia, card games, and basically any casual genre thinkable are all viable options. Partner with someone like Parker Brothers and give us social game Sorry! Or PopCap could always roll out FarmVille- and Petville-themed Peggle, Zuma and Bejeweled. I’m excited just thinking about it!

Pay to PLAY

I’d be more willing to spend real money in social games if the experience were more like an arcade and less like Amazon.com for Facebook game merchandise. What I mean is…

Why shouldn’t my in-game item collection be partially based on my performance? Just for example’s sake, say I pay $1 real dollars-worth of Farm Cash to play in a FarmVille-themed Peggle tournament. If I score more than X points, I get a special in-game item that’s otherwise available for the Farm Cash equivalent of $5 real dollars.

For that matter, how about selling “game tickets” or “tournament entries” (for premium currency). And instead of awarding special in-game items, just let us win more premium currency to spend however we like – whether that’s on more “game tickets” or on virtual goods for our farms, aquariums and cities?

If this type of gameplay were available in my favorite Facebook games, I’d never want to leave. So you wouldn’t have to worry about convincing me to come back ;)

B-I-N-G-O

I’m not sure why it is that the social game formula works, but it definitely does. Successful Facebook game developers have figured out something special that no one has yet been able (or willing) to describe. They’ve tapped into our brains in ways we don’t understand, and we, the players love them for it.

Our imaginations and time-wasting desires can only go so far though… The mouse-click interface is simple and fine for most social game elements (planting, feeding, cleaning, harvesting, etc.) But we’re getting hungry for more. Don’t think mini-games, think integrated casual gaming interaction.

You can lead a player to water, now let him drink.

This article was originally published on Frisky Mongoose.

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